Essentially, the answer comes down to this: Which is more valuable?
The fact is, both are crucial to success. Let’s start with street smarts. PR, like journalism, is a deadline-driven environment. Public relations professionals often work in a fast-paced environment. On any given day, they are posting comments on their company’s social media sites, fielding questions from the news media, updating their website, and performing many other tasks.
In PR, sometimes you have to react quickly to events of the day. The more experience you have, the better your instincts for finding PR opportunities, as well as managing risks to your company’s reputation.
Experience prepares you to survive and thrive in this fast-paced environment. It gives you the wisdom, judgment and intuition needed to know when – and how – to react to events of the day.
Book smarts, or education, is equally important. In order to thrive in PR, you need both higher-order thinking and technical skills. By that we mean you need to develop the critical thinking and problem-solving skills needed to analyze a situation, think through alternatives, and make sound decisions.
You also must develop specific technical skills, such as multimedia storytelling and writing for various types of platforms (i.e., the web, newsletters, etc.). A good education can help you become a better writer and editor, and help you learn to write for different audiences.
Education can also expose you to some of the best thinking in your profession.
The bottom line: PR and communications are constantly evolving. Both education and experience can play a huge role in your success.